In the world of business, we’ve had great examples to call upon as we seek successful partnership models to follow. A few such partnerships include collaborations between Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen; Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as Apple’s Steve Wozniak and the late Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs and Tim Cook shared an unusually strong bond, as evidenced by Cook’s offer to donate part of his own liver to Jobs, who was ill and desperately in need of a liver transplant. While Jobs declined, both that offer and his refusal to allow his partner to do it demonstrate the depth of the relationship.
Here are five key characteristics leaders need to develop in order to hold up their end of the business relationship.
1. Trust and respect each other implicitly
Trust and respect are two indispensable ingredients to a successful partnership. Both are so critical to this all-important business relationship that if either is lacking, there’s little hope of building a workable partnership. If you find that you and your partner doubt each another’s decisions, this is a strong indicator that trust is lacking—And without trust, respect is sure to be missing as well. This is an important red flag to recognize before it’s too late.
2. Communicate fully and consistently
Whether you work side-by-side in your garage or collaborate with one another from half-a-world-away as we do, consistent communication will help you build the bond that will strengthen your relationship to keep it growing. The sitcom, Friends, one of the most successful shows on television, lasted ten seasons due to the ability of its six actors and actresses to make things work by sticking together and dedicating themselves to a shared vision. One clear sign that they communicated well was the fact that throughout the show’s entire run, all six cast members earned the same pay per episode, regardless of how many raises they negotiated. The ability to communicate can help business partners build that same kind of solidarity that can keep the partnership strong enough to last for decades.
3. Learn how to give and take
When two independent, strong-minded individuals work closely together, at some point their viewpoints and opinions are bound to collide. If you’ve done your homework and made sure you share the same basic values and vision for the company, it’s easier during times of friction to follow the old adage that ‘two heads are better than one’. You’ll find it easier to maintain your perspective, knowing that for your partnership to work one partner should never predominate in the decision-making domain. Instead, a healthy give-and-take will allow each of you to use your strengths while also benefitting from your partner’s valuable insight and experience.
4. Makeup quickly after a disagreement
No partnership is entirely free of conflict. And while even the closest and most compatible partners may clash at times due to the depth of their passion, these disagreements offer good opportunities for some out-of-the-box thinking. Arguments can actually be quite healthy for business partners to engage in, as long as they fight fair, always find a way to make up and make up quickly. If they aren’t able to toss aside their egos and call a truce, their partnership is doomed to fail sooner or later.
5. Support one another in weaknesses
Partners are meant to complement one another. As co-founders of an organization, each person has the responsibility to exercise his or her strengths to balance out the other’s weaknesses. Think of running your company as being similar to climbing Mount Everest. You face many challenges along the way. A narrow path lies ahead where one climbing partner may need to grab the other’s hand for support at times or may even need a boost every now and then to make it to the top. In mountain climbing, the climber who lends a hand doesn’t worry that his fellow climber will reach the top before he will.